Friday, April 12, 2013

Brownies: Letterboxing (Geocaching)

My Brownies recently enjoyed earning the Letterboxing Badge.
Letterboxing as described in Wikipedia:
Letterboxing is an outdoor hobby that combines elements of orienteering, art, and puzzle solving.  Letterboxers hide small, weatherproof boxes in publicly accessible places (like parks) and distribute clues to finding the box in printed catalogs, on one of several web sites, or by word of mouth. Individual letterboxes usually contain a notebook and a rubber stamp.  Finders make an imprint of the letterbox's stamp, either on their personal notebook or on a postcard, and leave an impression of their personal stamp on the letterbox's "visitors' book" or "logbook" — as proof of having found the box and letting other letterboxers know who has visited. Many letterboxers keep careful track of their "find count".  The hobby originated in England and has recently gained popularity in the states.

A popular letterboxing site has many activities that children and scouts can enjoy:
Letterboxing is very similar to geo-caching which is the modern day game using GPS (Global Positioning System) and smart phone compasses to find the location of the Letterboxes.  

To introduce this concept to the girls I wanted to accomplish several things:
1.  I wanted to explain to them what Letterboxing is and how is can be a fun outdoor game.
2.  I wanted the girls to create their own stamp and pad
3.  I wanted to teach the girls how to use a compass

I elected not to create clues and instead the girls would make their own stamps and hide them using compass coordinates.  Since my Brownies are only 8 years old we had to simplify the use of compasses, but this was a great starting point for compasses instruction.

Small Spiral Notepads
Paper-Mache Boxes
Acrylic paint
Printed Stencils on Card Stock

I purchased inexpensive small spiral notebooks at Wal-Mart.  They had 4 notebooks for $1.97.  I found simple, small paper-mache boxes from Hobby Lobby for less than a $1 each.  Next I scoured the internet for simple images like hearts, flowers, mustaches, stars, bunnies and I printed them out on heavy card stock.  I cut all the images into squares and let the girls select their stamp.  
The girls then cut out their stamp and traced the stencil on a piece of simple foam which can be purchased at any craft store.  Next they cut out the foam stencil and adhered it, using Elmere's Glue, to the bottom of the paper-mache box.  This last instruction is very important!  Several girls wanted to glue the foam to the lid.  The inside of the lid will serve as your stamp pad.  

Designing a stamp pad took some creativity.  I wanted the stamp pad to be protected so that it would not rub off on the girls clothes, hands or belongings.  So I designed the stamp pad to be placed inside the lid of the box.  The girls simply glued in a piece of felt and the leaders squirted a teaspoon or so of acrylic paint onto the felt.  The girls then spread the paint onto the felt using a plastic knife.  The paint would eventually dry, but if enough paint was placed on the felt, the paint could easily be rejuvenated by squirting several sprays of water using a water bottle.  Also the paint was protected from drying out when the girls placed the lid on the box.  The girls simply placed the stamp on the bottom of the box into the lid of the box.  We were able to use the stamp over and over again in the hour we played.  The girls really enjoyed stamping each other's notebooks.  I provided baby wipes to wipe off the stamps when we were done and the boxes could be taken home easily.  

Next we tried to create a game similar to letterboxing.  Unfortunately we had storms in the area this day and we had to conduct our meeting inside, but this could easily be played outside.  I purchased 5 Neon colored half-sized poster boards.  I scattered the poster boards throughout the school, these boards were starter points for their letterboxing quests.

I purchased inexpensive compasses from Wal-Mart for $3.97 each.  It was too expensive to furnish each girl with one so they were placed in groups.  The girls enjoyed working together.  The compasses had many features, but I just taught the girls the basics:  how to read N, S, E, W.  I explained that the compasses need to lie flat in your hand and the girls needed to give the compass time to level out.  They practiced finding directions that I requested.  Next each group was instructed to go to one of the neon poster boards.  From here they would "Hide" their paper-mache boxes (stamps) and write down the location on a index card.  The location was documented by writing on the index card:
1.  Location:  Green poster board
2.  Face SOUTH
3.  March 8 steps forward
4.  Turn WEST 
5.  March 12 steps forward
5.  Turn NORTH
6.  March 4 steps

The index cards were then placed on a cafeteria table and you could pick up another groups index card and scout out their boxes.  Once you found the boxes the girls stamped the stamps in your notebook.  We competed to see how many stamps the teams could collect in the allotted time frame.
The girls had so much fun with the compasses that I could see many more games played using them.  

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